London’s part plant-based now, says Josh Williams. There’s no going back...
It’s happened. It’s done. The third wave of veganism is peaking with cult pop-up Club Mexicana opening its first proper restaurant. But it’s been surging for ages: BrewDog’s all-vegan bar, Neil Rankin’s Simplicity Burger, Cookdaily and its grime MC stans... even Greggs has a vegan range. Greggs! Veganism has moved from the freako fringes to the establishment: jackfruit burgers are as normal as tropical IPAs.
This is all great news, but bloody hard-earned. The first wave was wilfully non-mainstream, led by hippies and anarchists, their beliefs anti-corporate as well as pro-animal.
Venues like Hackney’s Pogo Café (now Black Cat Café), notorious for its tofu ‘punk’ burgers, led the charge. Then came the second wave, when the street-food explosion lowered the barrier to entry. Suddenly you could put a risky concept in front of thousands every weekend. Many of the big vegan names came through this way: Temple of Seitan, Young Vegans, Biff’s Jack Shack and, indeed, Club Mexicana. They produced headline-grabbing ‘vegan junk food’ at the time hipsters were tripping over their Vejas to show off food pictures.
Word spread rapidly. And now the third wave has come and veganism is everywhere. It’s less about narrow trends, more about lots of vegan elements on lots of menus – and it’s so crashingly normal that it gets priority billing in any mundane ‘thoughts on dinner?’ flatshare WhatsApp chat.
Of course, there has been backlash: all the big-brand bandwagon-jumping feels way removed from the first wave; the popularity of jackfruit has driven up the prices for small restaurants starting out; and how glad can we be that processed meat-substitutes are on the rise? But it’s clearly a net benefit to animals, the environment and our health. Plus the competition has driven the old masters to keep innovating: Club Mexicana is about to debut what it believes is the world’s first vegan al pastor. Veganism is here to stay. There is no fourth wave.
More ideas? Here’s our pick of the best vegan-friendly restaurants in London